In the early 1970s, feminist artists, critics, and historians began to question the apparently systemic exclusion of women from mainstream art. They challenged the values of a masculinist history of heroic art which happened to be produced by men and which had so powerfully transformed the image of woman into one of possession and consumption.1
Whitney Chadwick, author, Women, Art, and Society, 1990
I have yet to see parity for women in my lifetime.2
Mary Alice Orito, Checklist for Parity, artist’s statement 2016
In her book, Women, Art, and Society, Whitney Chadwick outlines an in-depth history of disparity and neglect in the history of art—prevalent since the Middle Ages—regarding gender, ethnicity and class. By the time the British Royal Academy was founded in 1768, European assumptions about art and history were firmly established: artists are male and white, and art a learned discourse; the sources of artistic themes and styles lie in the classical past; women are objects of representation rather than producers in a history commonly traced through ‘Old Masters’ and ‘masterpieces.’”3 Today, despite the fact that women earn half the MFA degrees in the country, only a quarter of the exhibitions in New York galleries feature women, and as recently as 2016, only 5% of the art on display in U.S. museums was made by women.4 The National Museum of Women in the Arts points out that “Work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent museum collections in the U.S. and Europe, and 34% in Australian state museums.”5 The struggle for women artists to be acknowledged, let alone to be exhibited, is a centuries-old cultural reckoning that widely persists today.
With Eyes Open is the namesake exhibition of a four-exhibition series that celebrates women artists and addresses gender disparity in America’s cultural institutions. With Eyes Open reflects on the state of women’s voices in the arts by bringing together two institutions founded to provide preparation and platforms for women—The Cambridge School of Weston (originally, The Cambridge School for Girls, established 1886) and The National Association of Women Artists (N.A.W.A.), (originally, the Women’s Art Club, established 1889). Our respective institutions overlap with regard to core values of intersectionality and inclusion, and both honor individual voices while recognizing cultural neglect and ghettoization. With eyes on progressive principles, both institutions were created over one hundred years ago to provide women with opportunities for their voices to flourish amidst a cultural atmosphere of inequality and scarcity. Now, CSW and N.A.W.A. join forces to reflect upon the poignancy, power, and breadth of a select group of contemporary women artists who stand up for cultural evolution.
In the fall of 2016, the Thompson Gallery issued a general call for feminist art and proposals for exhibition ideas. In early January of 2017, the Thompson Gallery was invited to curate a show by N.A.W.A.’s MA Chapter; by early spring, a focused and formalized call for art was announced for N.A.W.A.’s New York and MA chapters. In total, 51 artists applied to the With Eyes Open call for art, with 133 works of art. The final roster of artists includes 35 artists and 42 individual works. The exhibition includes painting, photography (digital and analog), print-making, collage, assemblage, and sculpture in a variety of genres. These generally include landscape, abstraction, portraiture and still life, but also included are works that are rich with cultural critique, innovation, resonant observation, whimsy, symbolic juxtaposition and isolated revelation. Each wall loosely groups work that could be pooled together to examine one of the four genres, and while most works fit neatly into their designation, many works could easily be categorized differently. Viewers are encouraged to locate a number of works that reside between artist genres and imagine which other categories they could also reside in.
Visitors are also encouraged to locate the artist’s statements about the works on display, included the checklist booklets below. In each of the four exhibited genres, the sentiments expressed shed light on the subjects explored by the makers and in many cases comment on and criticize the lack of parity for women artists in America. A sampling of quotes provides an overview of the work being made today by N.A.W.A. artists.
Linda Perlman Karlsberg’s landscape painting, Turmoil Threatens, invokes the With Eyes Open exhibition with a symbolic and foreboding landscape of a fleeting storm, while pointing out that there is hope in renewal:
The turmoil and ongoing metamorphosis witnessed in the clouds mimic the tumultuous forces and inevitable, unstoppable sea of change we ride in life. Every attribute—fearsome power, brutal force, grandness, stunning beauty, grace, optimism, lightness, sadness, brooding darkness, subtlety, quiet, sublimity—has its moment reflected across the sky, and then disappears.6
On the wall that groups works of abstraction, Sandee Johnson’s Lost Somewhere situates near namable objects in vague spaces, as if captured mid-transition in a process of slow identification:
As a female artist, I often feel dominated by men. Lost Somewhere is an example of that frustration, being hemmed in by our constraints as women. We try to get around the wall, over the fence, be treated as equals in the art world, and yet that rarely occurs.7
On the wall grouped with portraiture, the modularly repetitive pop art motif by Mimi Reilly, entitled Madonna Quartet—an image of the performer Madonna with her eyes blocked by her own hair—hauntingly raises questions about recent political climate shifts that commenced during last year’s presidential election:
Why do we choose not to see? What inspires us to be active or inactive? Repeating this image over and over again reminds me that we have unfinished business right now as a culture. The question is, “how can we as a culture turn a blind eye when we have so much potential to do the right thing?”8
The last painting visitors see, just before exiting the gallery, is a painting grouped on “Still Life” wall by Cindy Journey, entitled She Left Her Options Open II:
The brothers Grimm wrote a fairytale about a girl who is portrayed as leaving a shoe behind by accident, in her hurried state, to avoid revealing her true nature to a Prince. But I would like to suggest that she might have had more control of her situation…Because she left it behind, it gave her the choice to see the Prince again or to refuse; she left her options open. Consider for a moment that Cinderella was not a helpless girl, but one in control of her own future.
And on the final wall of the exhibition, on the outside of the gallery (adjacent to the pond) is a painting titled Universal Knowledge, by Nella Lush—the first president of the Massachusetts Chapter of N.A.W.A.—who points towards issues of empowerment:
To be women artists doesn’t mean that we are handicapped anymore. We are now using our raw and complex emotions, adding them to our Universal Knowledge, and becoming an active voice!9
This exhibition, presented by a school and a radical artists’ group, conveys a sense that the only way forward is by “fighting the good fight”. It models ways towards progress through respectful dissent, via self-expression through critical analysis of the myriad systems of oppression. It communicates the various calls for parity, and celebrates the work associated with recognizing and actualizing a better world to cooperate within.
Curator, Gallery Director
1. Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art, and Society, fifth edition, Thames & Hudson World of Art, 2012, p. 8
2. Mary Alice Orito, artist’s statement, Checklist for Parity, 2016; With Eyes Open exhibition checklist, 2017
3. Chadwick, p. 8
4. Carol Pelletier, Upon Reflection, found in Breaking Ground, exhibition catalog, Heftler Visiting Artist Gllery, Walter J. Manninen Center for the Arts, Endicott College, 2016, pp. 5-6
5. The National Museum of Women in the Arts Washington, D.C., “Get the Facts,” https://nmwa.org/advocate/get-facts, retrieved December 1, 2017
6. Linda Pearlman Karlsberg, artist’s statement for Turmoil Threatens, 2016; With Eyes Open exhibition checklist, 2017, checklist number 1.
7. Sandee Johnson, artist’s statement for Lost Somewhere, 2014; With Eyes Open exhibition checklist, 2017, checklist number 18.
8. Mimi Reilly, artist’s statement for Madonna Quartet, 2016; With Eyes Open exhibition checklist, 2017, checklist number 26.
9.N ella Lush, Universal Knowledge, artist’s statement, 2017; With Eyes Open exhibition checklist, 2017, checklist number 40.NAWA—With Eyes Open Catalog
Linda Pearlman Karlsberg
Turmoil Threatens, 2016
The skies offer widely divergent forms of light and infinitely variable color expression. I enjoy the challenge of describing forms that appear three-dimensional but also porous, often translucent and reflective at turns. In addition these scenes evoke life’s fragility inherent in this perpetual reshaping and reordering. A bittersweet sadness holds a dialogue with the pleasure this natural beauty first engenders, and a poignant aching sits directly behind the pleasurable sensation felt on viewing these scenes at moments of transcendence. These paintings, so dependent on the light of the moment depicted, are also about temporality and all it implies in nature and in our lives. My profound delight and engagement, a catalyst for the paintings, soon summons an all-too-relevant awareness of temporal changes in ourselves, the world, and all those around us. The turmoil and ongoing metamorphosis witnessed in the clouds mimic the tumultuous forces and inevitable, unstoppable sea of change we ride in life. Every attribute—fearsome power, brutal force, grandness, stunning beauty, grace, optimism, lightness, sadness, brooding darkness, subtlety, quiet, sublimity—has its moment reflected across the sky, and then disappears. I find the emotional resonance confirming and profound. In each painting the challenge is to render the beauty and ambivalence of these moments; to hold the melancholy engendered by this perpetual, metaphorical play of birth to death; to impart the compositional magic of this random intersection of light, color, texture and form; to celebrate this elusive earthly moment when condensation and weather artistically create something so humanly resonant.
Jess Hurley Scott
Caught Inside, 2015
My fascination with translucency, illumination and impermanence has heavily influenced my process and product. Creating my paintings on layers of acrylic and spacing them apart in clear routered framing has made these elements intrinsic to the work. I find it exhilarating to blur the definition of 2D and 3D in my painting and use my own set of rules to control the medium. In my current work, the properties of water, both tangible and implied, have been the perfect subject to carry the themes I want to delve into. Scientific properties are balanced against the intangible ideas of emotion, drama and instability. A wave is sheer energy. It can take down a building and yet not support the weight of your hand. The light that reflects and refracts through water may reveal what is under the surface, but can also create illusions and distort reality. These same concepts carry such emotional weight in our human consciousness. There is a mindfulness in my study of water in this medium. The name of Caught Inside refers to a surfing term where the rider is caught between the swell and the shore, unable to get away from the break of the wave to the safer part of the ocean where you can ride. It’s many surfers’ most uncomfortable position, facing a wall of water crashing down on you with no means to escape its power. That feeling of dread builds as you see a wave looming higher in front of you. There is no avoiding it; attempting to minimize its impact is the only option.
Pink Pyramiden, 2014
As the sun disappears during autumn in the high Arctic, the days consist of a sunrise leading immediately to a sunset. The skies are consistently dramatic, and the snow-covered mountains create a perfect canvas for these light shows.
What’s Left, 2016
In this series I wanted to document what was left after the Dune Road Fire of 2015 that occurred in Westhampton, New York, where a 54 unit building went up in flames while undergoing renovations before the season started; the only person living there was the property manager. I found cinders or burnt pieces, ash, charcoal, and soot, beside burned furniture and small pieces like pottery that had survived. Photographing this series was difficult, thinking of how many memories died in the fire and how families were affected, but at the same time being thankful that no one was hurt. At this time the community is trying to rebuild and hopefully they will.
Anita Helen Cohen
Spring Storm ll, 2016
For me, all of nature is art. What is a linden leaf in autumn if not Nature’s painting? Unlikely colors combine perfectly in composition and symmetrical design! I am drawn to texture, color and form—especially details created by texture. I often see details before I see the ‘whole,’ and I find it totally engrossing to get lost painting them. Watercolors are a natural medium for me. They allow me enormous range—to create delicate, transparent flowers, and to change textured, hard rock surfaces into softer, more accessible, more feminine forms. With my recent work using Yupo, the process of ‘chasing’ and ‘taming’ the paint, coaxing it toward more predictability, feels magical. I allow the painting to ‘speak to me.’ This is a process of discovery in which the painting and I are interactive partners, continually creating images and meaning together. This approach has enabled me to work more freely and abstractly. For Spring Storm ll, I wanted to paint the sky and storm I was experiencing—I wanted to use drama and color, but not use colors that usually describe a stormy sky. With my Eyes Open I painted what I felt.
Susan Scavo Gallagher
Wind Ripples #4, 2016
The ocean offers many opportunities for color expression as seen in reflections of people and objects through strong winds and tidal changes. In this un-enhanced photo, bodies walking across a dock in bright colored slickers become abstractions in a deep blue ocean landscape. There is much beauty in the natural world. I want others to see the often unnoticed abstracts of nature that I see “with my eyes open” and viscerally feel the same pleasure in seeing what I do.
The Last Mud Season, 2017
Mud Season arrives with melting snow and rain. It turns dirt roads into mud during early spring in rural New England. My painting The Last Mud Season is a portrait of a falling-in structure, an old house, whose time is at an end. This is a portrait of a house where the structure is visibly vulnerable to the elements. I use the forms of decay as a testament to histories of use and misuse. The painting is executed on unprimed canvas to allow the acrylic paint to bleed into the cloth. Layers of transparent color achieve a watercolor effect. The structure, much like the painting, records its condition in a language of stain. I hope to capture the beauty of things forgotten by time: imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
Anita Helen Cohen
Summer Triptych, 2015
Summer Triptych is a kind of portrait of summer. In this piece I dove into the details, and made them bigger than life. For me, the beauty of summer can’t be exaggerated too much!
Who are these figures? Perhaps they are aliens entrapped, or possibly protected, by the solid, brightly colored geometric forms that surround their own geometric, multi-colored bodies? Is it significant that the two appear to be isolated? And if entrapped or protected, and isolated, why? Could they be feared or under study? Clearly, the two are not part of the world you, the viewer, nor I, the artist, inhabit. But might they symbolize others who are? If so, who do you think these others might be? And what world might they inhabit? Consider as well the title, Dolente (tender), which denotes a feeling that most who view the work have experienced. As a viewer, do you agree that tenderness is conveyed by the work, and do you sense other emotions emanating from the painting? If so, what are they? And what aspects of the work, form, color, line or composition, communicate these? The figures stand upon two bright red quadrilaterals and a blue triangle that create a platform serving to thrust both forward. What do the colors in the other surrounding frames tend to do in contrast? Do you believe there is hope for escape from encapsulation, or must the two remain isolated, and perhaps fearful? If there is hope, how is this hinted at in the painting? And a last word: Dolente is meant to fracture preconceived notions of the Other. This is obvious, I would assume. What may not be so readily apparent is how geometry can warm one’s heart, and that quadrilaterals and triangles, angles and curves, can be great fun, especially when applied in painting.
Sacred Journey No. 2, 2012
The presence of the model energizes and intensifies the act of applying paint to paper, and allows emotions and thoughts to flow from eye to head to hand to heart.
The inherent messiness and imperfection of human connection is embedded in my process of layering, scrubbing away, revealing glimpses of what lies beneath;
Leaving a trace.
Still Life in 3 Colors, 2017
I started this painting by applying acrylic paint onto a canvas, and stopped when I felt I had a balanced, interesting design with few colors - gray, yellow, white. I then used a still-life setup as inspiration for me to add additional lines and deeper, richer color.
Terry Del Percio
Another Day, 2016
We all have internal places deeply hidden under many layers of life experiences. I am usually compelled to explore those places by digging them up and exposing them into paintings. Another Day depicts an exploration from an intense period of time in my life. Just when I thought I had reached the core, yet another layer showed up.
Clematis Vines I, 2015
As I was doing my garden cleanup for the season, clipping the dead, defoliated, Clematis vines on our stair railing, I became fascinated by the positive and negative spaces created by the entangled mass. I knew I had to print it. I am a “nature” printer and use leaves, grasses, vines, seeds in my monotypes. I also use an etching press to obtain detail and depth in my work. Here was a new challenge: printing a 3-D mass of twisted, unruly, curly vines on a 2-D piece of paper and running it all through an etching press. Clematis Vines I is the result of this challenge. It is a “first pull” monotype (note the white areas) with subsequent overprintings through the press of the darker blue/gray vines and lighter blue vines.
During the creation of this work, I felt I was watching someone else’s hand in motion, “with eyes open” to the unstoppable maelstrom of energy and emotion burning itself onto the canvas. The painting took on a life of its own, making demands seemingly beyond my conscious control. The title Wildfire seemed to fit my emotional process in making this work. The rapid, directly applied layers of thick oil paint, characterized by unrestrained mass and line, complex textures, and color harmonies, record an intensely free and ultimately personal encounter with the creative force.
Marsha Nouritza Odabashian
Upper Left Corner, 2017
The central nebula of transparent layers of onionskin dye becomes a massive pinwheel shape that may be a continent, an island, a flower, or a pocket. An unexpected eye that emerged at its center tentatively resolves the nebula into the head of a cow-like animal. A few specks of acrylic paint in the upper left corner of the painting deliberately depict a minuscule female figure confidently walking. Other figures in varying stages of completion emerge through the texture, individual in relation to time, space and other beings. A woman sits prominently in the upper center of the painting with her back to the viewer, toiling in isolation in the orbit of the eye of the pinwheel and unaware of the figure in the upper left corner.
My Better Half, 2017
This is an encaustic painting that combines abstracted patterns with graphic elements, balancing chaos and harmony.
My New Hat Series #2, 2016
My paintings are about line, color, shapes and design. I feel passionate about my painting and I love it. My style is more design-style than realistic. My whimsical ladies give me lots of room to play. Painting for me is a wonderful creative outlet. In life, I always have a plan, but this is not so with painting. I start with a basic drawing, but from there it all seems to be intuitive. I get myself out of the way and it just seems to flow. I use acrylic paint because it is very forgiving and easy to change! The process from start to finish is a journey within itself each time, with the outcome not in my hands. Painting teaches me about being guided. My ladies symbolize my guardian angels, showing up in a most lighthearted, playful kind of way.
Lost Somewhere, 2014
As a female artist, I often feel dominated by men. Lost Somewhere is an example of that frustration, being hemmed in by our constraints as women. We try to get around the wall, over the fence, be treated as equals in the art world, and yet that rarely occurs.
As If My Life Were Shaven and Fitted To A Frame II, 2016
My painting As If My Life Were Ahaven, and Fitted To A Frame II takes its title from a line in an Emily Dickinson poem, “It was not death.” The poem explores the world through the senses, trying to make sense of contradictory experiences and feelings. This visceral exploration, embracing all the senses, seems a wonderful mirror for the creative process. Painting is for me a means to allow complex experiences and feelings to make up a whole. I hope that the work evokes feelings in the viewer, and creates a spaciousness that allows for contradictions to co-exist side by side.
I had been doing a number of paintings with this color palette, all quite visceral and emotive. When I started this piece I was relaxing more into the paint. In oil, it started with my "staining" the linen with wet, loose paint and then building upon that structure from all angles. I also took advantage of the texture of the linen and the negative spaces by "weaving" the stitches of color there. As the piece progressed, it looked more and more like a landscape, albeit abstracted. I christened this new "land" Primordia because of its primordial origins.
Colored Strata, 2014
Boston is very near the sea, and I am really impressed and captured by all the colors—I love the sea and the sky. Because my work is abstract, I just go to a place and try to capture the light and the emotions that really touch my soul and when I return to my studio I just paint them. In abstraction there is a freedom I love, freedom to work with colors, forms and textures. Each time there is something new, and it is always a challenge.
Boat House Gang, 2015
Boat House Gang is a photo that was taken at the Abe Bashara Greater Lawrence Community Boating House, in Lawrence, MA. I was shooting infrared film of the activities when I came upon this gathering of boys waiting for their turn at rowing. I was shooting with a simple 35mm SLR Nikon manual setting camera with a red filter over the lens. The original darkroom-enlarged piece is 8 X 10 and has been sold. For this image, I scanned the negative and enlarged the piece on Epson archival glossy paper. I liked the casual, fun positioning of the boys as a composition, and the infrared film process allowed for the antique memories, misty effect I was looking for. I have returned to the boathouse on multiple occasions to shoot film and digital images. It is a pleasant, positive community open to all. Lawrence, MA is a multicultural city, and this program accepts many teens on partial and full scholarship.
Held Dear, 2016
Why doesn’t she have a face? What is she holding dear? I posed these questions in the painting to get one thinking about the role women have played historically in most cultures. She represents a woman of any color and her age is not specific. I’d like the viewer to think how many women in the world quietly and without identity go about taking care of precious things, whether it be a child or a valued ware. She holds something dear, although her surroundings do not hold her dear.
Inside one of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., I was struck by the room’s mesmerizing, other-worldly energy. Night and Day is my response to that experience, where time is both reduced and expanded by unending, yet fleeting, flashes of varying hues of multi-colored light. To capture a setting's abstract and graphic underpinnings, I pay close attention to its shapes and patterns—angles, curves and shadows exposed by the dynamic interaction between light, color, reflections and texture.
Pull Up a Chair and Listen, 2017
Our senses give us the clues and signals that we need to survive and to exist as a cohesive society. In the visual arts, the viewer’s eye is challenged to encounter “the other.” This piece was conceived as an exploration of two interdependent constructs, the first a freely painted abstraction punctuated by expressive, experimental mark-making using a variety of media, and the second a contemporary, thought-provoking portrait. The figure, centrally placed, sits in a powerful pose, projecting an assured, almost regal bearing. His commanding presence and direct gaze challenge the viewer to engage. At the same time, the interplay of pictorial elements encourages the exploration of subtle hints and dichotomies found within the painting: the figures’ strong presence, yet uncertain hands; the graffiti-like markings suggesting a freedom of spirit, but also asserting restrictions and ambiguities within the subject and the space in which the figure resides. Look closely to unravel this man’s story and its universality.
Elizabeth Myers Castonguay
Seeing Complementaries, 2009
Following 9/11, I spent the next nine years on three bodies of work that celebrate human diversity. The pairs of eyes in this painting are matted on complementary colors, because our best friend or soulmate might be a person of a different color, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation than ourselves. Merriam-Webster defines “complement” as “something that completes something else or makes it better.”
Madonna Quartet, 2016
Why do we choose not to see? What inspires us to be active or inactive? Madonna came to be recognized as an individual who stood up for what she saw. She took a lot of chances and she did things that were very raw. I liked the image I selected of Madonna very much, because it reminds me that she was able to get what she needed, as well as how she knew when to walk away when the time was up. I wanted to work over this image in several instances, and repeating it seemed to epitomize my thoughts about her. I like unfinished things and I am very curious. Repeating this image over and over again reminds me that we have unfinished business right now as a culture. The question is, “how can we as a culture turn a blind eye when we have so much potential to do the right thing?”
Heidi Caswell Zander
Paula, Me and the Milkmaid, 2017
This is about women through the centuries and how they engage, or not, through their eyes. Paula-Mohdersohn Becker gives a side glance (first female to paint herself nude). Next is contemporary me, daring to have direct eye contact and let viewers see inside. The milkmaid looks down in the servant role she lives.
Women are often judged by outward appearances and the cultural definition of beauty. We let this concern for appearances define our self-worth. This piece depicts two young women who are bonded by this commonality. The facial expressions of these women portray a strong sense of self-confidence and an indifference to others defining who they are as women. The dynamic painting style and bold color choices further illustrate this liberation from societal norms and celebrate the freedom of self expression.
Universal Knowledge, 2017
Universal Knowledge was inspired and created after reading an essay written over 100 years ago by writer and activist Emma Goldman. She says it best in her writing: “The narrowness of the existing conception of woman’s independence and emancipation; the dread of love for a man who is not her social equal; the fear that love will rob her of her freedom and independence; the horror that love or the joy of motherhood will only hinder her in the full exercise of her profession—all these together make of the emancipated modern woman a compulsory vestal, before whom life, with its great clarifying sorrows and its deep, entrancing joys, rolls on without touching or gripping her soul.” Slowly but certainly women are making progress towards equality. To be women artists doesn’t mean that we are handicapped anymore. We are now using our raw and complex emotions, adding them to our Universal Knowledge, and becoming an active voice!
Jennifer Jean Costello
Y+W United, 2017
In my most recent work, I was keenly aware that every mark I made, whether it relied on my Eastern or Western heritage, was made by one hand—my hand—and that the finished product would live and breathe as part of a world in which we all are tenants and that we all share. I take a lot of pride in being myself. I am comfortable with who I am. My suit (skin) is in brilliant color—Yellow + White. What suit is yours?
Dale Sherman Blodget
Red 1, 2015
Figure drawings are sometimes restricted from exhibitions. Fine with me. I experienced a return to childhood and paper dolls as I dressed this nude model to make her more comfortable in mixed company. “Beautiful Red Dress” kept playing in my head. Many thanks to Laurie Anderson for inspiration.
I have always been a fascinated observer of the natural world, and feel a spiritual connection to the planet and its inhabitants. As we humans feel the need to keep building things that are bigger and faster, and time is swallowed up in often meaningless multitasking, the feeling of connection is sometimes lost and I long increasingly for space, serenity, and a return to the spiritual sustenance that nature provides. Since childhood I have questioned whether the progress that society so relentlessly chases is really the right progress, or whether it is, in fact, a harmful diversion. Whereas I often paint from observation of the landscape, my piece, Longing, incorporates a combination of observed, remembered, and imagined elements, as it looks both inward and outward, reflecting the confines of life today along with a longing for a return to a simpler time and harmony with the rhythms of nature. The piece pays homage to more earth-centered cultures, to the universal role of the arts and music, and to the enduring power of Mother Nature.
I created this piece after the 2016 presidential election. We have all witnessed the stark division in the State of our Union. This sculpture represents how we are currently unwilling to listen to each other, work together, or see one another’s perspectives. Empathy and collaboration seem to have all but disappeared, not only from government and the media, but also our society more broadly. In a stalemate, there is no progress and no one wins.
Common Elements, 2000
My water pistol and cap gun paintings have been emerging since 1992 (after one of the first school shootings at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, MA) in an ongoing quest for insight into the origins of violence. This body of work grew out of a concern with kids as well as adults using guns as a means of dealing with the problems of everyday life—both regionally and globally. I question if there are obvious as well as subliminal messages we send to our children through the ideas and artifacts we simply hand them. I titled this painting Common Elements, quoting President Wm. J. Clinton in his reaction to the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, as he wondered what these shooters shared in life experiences or psychiatric conditions. I choose to use jelly-colored toy pistols in my series as a means of easier access into a viewer’s primal thoughts on gun usage in society, and also for encouraging group dialogue that might follow. The pencil in many of my artworks is a stand-in for humanity.
Mary Alice Orito
Checklist for Parity, 2016
I had a dream that my Grandmother was hanging words and paragraphs on the clothesline in her backyard for all the world to see. When I awoke, I jotted down the dream. It is the background for my annoyance that I have yet to see parity for women in my lifetime. Checklist for Parity is the result of the disappointment and controlled anger that lingers in simply trying to get equality of pay, control over our bodies, and equal health insurance. Serious concepts are ‘hung on the line to dry’ and in some ways ‘screwed,’ as the black long screw tied to the piece symbolizes. Women, who are at least 50% of the population, are still considered, by some men, objects to be owned in order to show off male achievement. And some men, even though it’s the 21st century, can tell us what to do, control our bodies, control our money, and discard us when our usefulness for them has passed its expiration date. Parity, a concept, a hope and an ongoing ethereal dream for women, people of color and the underserved, is still a glacial movement, but one can hope, as the word now exists openly in polite society. I am delighted with the assumed equality of our younger women; alas, they have to carry the fight to the finish line, as the fight is not over.
Laurene Krasny Brown
Homage à l'Orange, 2017
The most cultivated fruit tree, the orange sustains us, tastes sweet or tangy, rolls like a ball, and its name is its color!
Bouquet for Mom, 2017
I have always drawn since I was little. My grandfather, who went to sea when he was 14, was a Sunday painter. I was close to him. I loved watching him paint his seascapes. The smell of oil paint always brings me back to those memories. I was enthralled with the whole process. My love of flowers is something that I have always shared with my mother. She is with me in spirit now and I’ve painted this bouquet for her.
Laurene Krasny Brown
Temple of the Golden Orange, 2017
In this ongoing series of still life collages, oranges are a focus of my attention. Full of vitality, but often overlooked, they allow me to honor their inherently sensuous nature. Here I am literally giving them center stage; they appear on the table, knife at the ready, like a more traditional still life portrait. The added pedestals and fringed curtains are there to elevate the fruit to a place of privilege. I am also playing a bit, having fun with these beloved objects. These pieces are small, partly to insist that the viewer come up close to the art, partly to express the intimacy of daily life where such gifts as oranges might be found. I read that oranges are the most cultivated fruit tree in the world. I feel like giving them their due. The golden glaze on some of the paper fruit I brushed on with Sennelier ink, gold or “or” in French. That stuff is just magic.
Why Am I Not Surprised?, 2017
During a recent visit to artists’ studios in a former Rockland, MA sandpaper factory, I came upon this unexpected tableau. While much of my photography features geometric and architectural features similar to those seen here, I wanted to introduce the element of social commentary by focusing on the incongruous juxtaposition of a raised toilet seat in a workplace primarily used by women.
Metamorphosis of Id, 1998
According to Freud, the id is the only part of the personality that is present at birth. He also suggested that this primitive component of personality existed wholly within the unconscious. The id acts as the driving force of personality. It not only strives to fulfill our most basic urges, many of which are tied directly to survival, it also provides all of the energy necessary to drive personality. Nature vs. Nurture? Art imitating Life? Where do we get our impulses to be kind or violent toward one another? In this painting I have organized, in a linear thinking fashion, natural found objects with manmade objects, such as a tree fungus that looks like a riddled target with an official NRA shooting practice target. There is a photo of a human eye, several beautifully preserved moths, the rat-a-tat-tat rifle sound created in this still life setting by specifically placed pieces of masking tape. And perhaps, a self-portrait at the top.
She Left Her Options Open 2, 2017
A shoe? Yes, and most likely a ladies shoe, but only one. The brothers Grimm wrote a fairytale about a girl who is portrayed as leaving a shoe behind by accident, in her hurried state, to avoid revealing her true nature to a Prince. But I would like to suggest that she might have had more control of her situation. Could she have been clever enough to actually leave one behind on purpose? Because she left it behind, it gave her the choice to see the Prince again or to refuse; she left her options open. Consider for a moment that Cinderella was not a helpless girl, but one in control of her own future.